John’s having difficulties at work because he doesn’t always make out conversations. He’s in denial and keeps telling himself that everyone is speaking unclearly. He believes that you have to be old to use hearing aids, so he’s been procrastinating on finding a hearing specialist, and hasn’t gone for a hearing test. Unfortunately, he’s been pumping up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing considerable harm to his hearing. So, sadly, his denial has stopped him from getting help.
But what John doesn’t realize is that his viewpoints are outdated. Loss of hearing doesn’t have the stigma that it once did. While in some circles, there’s still a stigma surrounding hearing loss, it’s much less apparent than it used to be, particularly among younger people. (Isn’t that ironic?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
The cultural and social connections with loss of hearing can be, to put it simply, untrue and not beneficial. Loss of vigor and aging are sometimes connected to loss of hearing. The fear is that you’ll lose some social status if you admit you have hearing loss. Some might think that hearing aids make you appear old or not as “with it”.
This problem could be thought of as inconsequential and not associated with reality. But there are a few very real consequences for people who are attempting to deal with the stigma around hearing loss. Here are some examples:
- Occupation setbacks (Perhaps you were in a meeting and you didn’t quite make out some relevant information).
- Setbacks in your relationships (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Avoiding hearing loss management (causing needless suffering and poor results).
- Job hunting problems (it’s unfortunate, but some people may buy into the stigmas around hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
There are several more examples but the point is well made.
Fortunately, this is all changing, and it truly does feel as if the stigma over loss of hearing is fading away.
Why is Hearing Loss Stigma Declining?
There are various substantial reasons why hearing loss stigma is on the decline. Population demographics are transforming and so is our connection to technology.
Hearing Loss is More Prevalent in Youth
Possibly the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is disappearing is that hearing loss itself is becoming a lot more prevalent, particularly with younger people (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not children).
Most statistical studies put the number of people who dealing with hearing loss in the U.S. around 34 million, which translates into 1 out of every 10 people. In all probability, loud sounds from several modern sources are the primary reason why this hearing loss is more prevalent than ever before.
There’s more discussion and understanding about hearing loss as it becomes more common.
We’ve Become More Familiar With Technology
Perhaps you were worried that your first set of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted wearing them. But nowadays, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids virtually entirely blend in. No one really even sees them. In many cases, newer hearing aids are small and subtle.
But in many cases hearing aids go undetected because these days, everyone has some technology in their ears. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so nobody cares if you’re wearing a helpful piece of it in your ear.
A Change in Thinking Long Past Due
Of course, those two factors are not the only causes behind the retreat of hearing loss stigma. Much more is generally comprehended about loss of hearing and there are even celebrities that have told the public about their own hearing loss scenarios.
There will continue to be less stigma about loss of hearing the more we see it in the world. Now, of course, we want to prevent loss of hearing in every way that’s possible. If we could determine a way to counter trends in youth hearing loss as we battle hearing loss stigma that would be ideal.
But more people will begin to be ok with seeing a hearing specialist as this stigma fades away. This will keep people hearing better and enhance general hearing health.